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04th Mar 2024

Young Down star steals the show at NFL Combine with sheer height of his kicks

Michael McQuaid

After all the buildup, the moment came on Sunday for Rory Beggan, Charlie Smyth and Mark Jackson during the 2024 NFL Combine in Indianapolis.

All weekend, NFL fans had the chance to watch players like JJ McCarthy, Bo Nix and also Xavier Worthy, who broke the 40 yard dash record.

On Sunday, tens of thousands of NFL, GAA and sport fans in general scoured the internet for news and updates on how they performed on field.

Former Connacht player Darragh Leader is set to take part in his drills later today.

The drills took place after the offensive linemen candidates finalised their preparations ahead of the NFL Draft and there was a delay to the start of proceedings.

That was evident from the start as it was clear there were naturally some nerves, with some early kicks missed.

When it got going, it got going though and some superb skill was shown from all Irish participants.

Rory Beggan has a fine evening

NFL Combine debutante Rory Beggan was successful in eleven out of sixteen of his kicks on the day; making a fifty five yard field goal on a live snap (equivalent to a live play in the NFL).

On his last kick, he was very close from sixty yards and was impressive in the second round of drills; when the participants had to show their skillset in relation to kickoffs, punting and onside kicks.

We’ve always known Beggan has a hell of a kick on him – and he left it all on the field on Sunday.

Charlie Smyth impresses

Charlie Smyth from Mayobridge in County Down could be considered a real diamond in the rough.

At such a young age (22) and with months of training under his belt, one of the biggest standouts of Charlie’s NFL Combine was the sheer height on his kicks – which is not an easy feat at all.

Charlie led the pack, making twelve out of his sixteen attempts.

He almost hit a sixty yarder towards the end, but was inches wide.

Any NFL special teams coach watching Smyth would surely have been impressed with his composure and confidence at such a young age.

At one stage, he was on a roll – making eight in a row.

Mark Jackson composed in Indianapolis

Wicklow goalkeeper Mark Jackson looked calm and composed throughout his session, making ten of his sixteen kicks.

He impressed heavily on the kickoff, punting and onside kick segments towards the end also, showing the power that he has in his leg.

Throughout the first round, Jackson made some really clean kicks which left an impression with the scouts watching on.

What happens next?

The final participant from Ireland for the NFL International Player Pathway is Darragh Leader, who is expected to took part in a punting tryout on Monday.

Darragh is the brother of Tadhg Leader, owner of Leader Kicking.

The reality stands – the players do not have to declare for the NFL Draft and they can sign with a team now at any stage.

They spent Sunday morning speaking with representatives of all thirty two teams and my sources indicate that they made a very good impression.

This is the unknown.

For GAA kickers to enter the NFL Combine and kick how they kicked is a remarkable achievement – with most kickers in the United States struggling at the start of their careers with long kick attempts, the Irish players took like ducks to water and surely have put a lasting mark on the notepads of all thirty two teams, who now have an opportunity to have one international player on their team through the NFL’s International Player Pathway Program.

A nation holds its breath.

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